Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman of Indian descent who spied for Britain during World War II has been honoured with a plaque marking her former home in London. This comes 75 years after she was executed in Germany, having not revealed any details to the Nazis – not even her real name.

This makes Khan the first woman of Indian origin to be given a blue plaque which commemorates notable figures from Britain’s past.

“When Noor Inayat Khan left this house on her last mission, she would never have dreamed that one day she would become a symbol of bravery. She was an unlikely spy,” said Shrabani Basu, her biographer, in a statement.

“As a Sufi, she believed in non-violence and religious harmony. Yet when her adopted country needed her, she unhesitatingly gave her life in the fight against Fascism,” she added.

As a Special Operations Executive (SOE), Khan became the first female wireless operator to be sent from the UK into Nazi-occupied France to aid the French Resistance during World War II.

According to historical documents, Khan’s superiors held mixed opinions about her – from doubts about her ability to handle interrogation to her “childlike” manners and “lack of ruse” due to her gentle manner. She also received poor athletic reports because she was physically very petite but they did state that she could “run very well”.

Nevertheless, Khan took on dangerous missions. She was ultimately betrayed and classified as “highly dangerous” by the Germans. In 1958, an anonymous Dutch prisoner stated that Khan was beaten cruelly by a Schutzstaffel agent ( a major paramilitary organization loyal to Adolf Hitler) and then shot from behind at Dachau concentration camp.

Her last words are reported to be “Liberté”.


(Header credits: Wikimedia Commons)